According to recent reports, there is apparently a “resolute” intention to introduce embryo freezing in Malta. However, this intention is based on error and sheer contempt for human life.
The Annual Work Report of the Embryo Protection Authority for 2014 was presented to the House of Representatives on 15th July 2015. According to this report, there were 170 treatment cycles carried out during 2014, resulting in 49 pregnancies. This resulted in a success rate of 28.82%. From a look at statistics kept by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, the success rate in Malta is higher than that of the UK, which incidentally, permits embryo freezing. This goes to show that embryo freezing is not necessary to increase the success rate of IVF. Again, from explanations readily available on the website of Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the risks involved with embryo freezing are that not all embryos survive freezing and eventual thawing, and that occasionally, no embryos at all survive. Moreover, they also state that due to the freezing and thawing process, the chances of having a baby using a thawed embryo are lower than if a fresh embryo were to be used. These pronouncements of the British regulator directly contradict such manifestly incorrect statements that a law without embryo freezing cannot be successful.
According to certain reports, the new law being drafted increases the maximum number of eggs which can be fertilised to five, but the maximum number of fertilised eggs which can be implanted in a prospective mother was decreased to two. This guarantees that embryos will be frozen. If a couple does not wish that the embryos created by them are adopted, then a court application can be filed for a judge to decide on the matter. At this stage, one can only observe that after having made a mess of things, the law would dump all the resulting moral dilemmas onto the judiciary, turning each judge in front of whom such an application comes, into a potential gaoler or executioner.
It is also understood that the proposed new law will include the possibility of lesbian couples to make use of IVF. Since women cannot produce sperm, the only source of sperm would be sperm banking. However, this would take procreation even further away from the loving environment of a mother and a father united in marriage, and reduce women’s eggs and men’s sperm to mere commodities to be traded freely. This would truly reduce human procreation to a cold and impersonal business transaction.
Embryo freezing as well as donation of eggs and sperm would eviscerate the meaning of human procreation. The government’s declared intention to open up the possibility of IVF treatment to gay couples and single mothers is wrong on many levels. First of all, IVF treatment is meant to alleviate infertility. The proposed amendments insult infertile couples by equating their anguish at being unable to conceive to the mere wish of gay couples to “have children”. Gay couples are not suffering from infertility. Their inability to conceive is totally expected and totally natural, since nature never intended for human procreation to result from two men or two women. Secondly, the notion of single mothers is that they need additional support when bringing up children alone, due to the need to take up employment. This would fly in the face of initiatives taken to date to help single mothers find employment and bring up their children. One would be hard pressed to find any single woman who, of her own volition, would opt to procreate without even wanting to meet the other side of the biological equation.
It is wrong to approach this matter as some sort of service to create children on demand and sell to the highest bidder. Children are human beings and as such, and also in accordance with Malta’s international obligations, need the presence of a mother and a father. The proposed amendments would create orphaned children, intentionally brought into the world without a father or without a mother. The proposed amendments insult the dignity of the human being and the rights of children. The child’s right to know one’s mother and one’s father and to be raised by them would be grossly violated, if such amendments come to pass. Children are not commodities to be created on demand and sold, and were the Embryo Protection Act to be amended according to recent proposals, the embryo would not only not be protected, but harmed in all possible ways.
Ramon Bonett Sladden is a member of Life Network